Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Worldbuilding is Hard

I may have mentioned before that my current work in progress is a fantasy romance.  We're talking made-up world, swords and magic. Maybe dragons. There's a dead one so far, but I don't think this particular storyline will lend itself to any live beasties.

I am having a lot harder time writing this story than any of my previous ones. Yes, even harder than aliens. My alien book originally started on Earth, present-day Earth. So I got to cheat and reveal little bits of the alien world as I went along. That means I didn't have to have it all figured out before I started.

This time, well, its harder. I can make stuff up as I go along. And I am. But then I have to remember it. And remembering made-up cities, rivers, mountains and kingdoms is a lot harder than remembering St. Louis, the Mississippi, and Nebraska.

I am trying to keep the focus for now on the people, but if all I wrote was dialogue then my story would be done about 50,000 words too fast. And the magic isn't separable from the storyline. Some of the major conflicts are created by and compounded by the world they're living in.  I think that's supposed to be a good sign that the fantasy elements aren't taking over the story.

Yesterday I tried to write for an hour and ended up attempting to sketch a map for the first time. I had to know where my people were and where they were headed, and what was in their way.  Then I beefed up my basic little Excel spreadsheet where I was tracking character names by adding tabs for Cities, Kingdoms/Regions, and Geography (stuff like rivers and mountains that need names).  It felt like I was stalling and avoiding writing, but after I got done, I realized that I had a better idea of what to do.

I feel like I need all this stuff online somehow, but I am not sure how to do it.  I write from two separate computers (a laptop at home that has been grounded from travel after a corner of the case got broken, and a netbook that goes to crit group, RWA, and Starbucks).  I usually throw my latest version of what I write into a folder on my webserver so that I can get it from the other computer without having to remember a thumbdrive. My spreadsheet is now there too. But my sketch is on paper, and its not complete.  I might have to scan it or run it through Adobe Illustrator (which I have but have barely played with, and is probably a tempting little time suck....) to create a graphic file. And short of using Windows Paint, I don't know that I have access to a graphics program to update my map with that I can access from both computers.  I've got basically nothing on the netbook but windows and Open Office.

Ok, whine time over.  If anyone has good suggestions for managing this stuff without installing a lot of crap (since neither computer can handle it), let me know. In the mean time, maybe I should open that file and actually write a few words...


Lisa Hartjes said...

How about giving Google Documents a try? You can have spreadsheets and word processing documents (rtf, odt, and others I think) there, and edit them. Plus, it lets you access them anywhere you can access the web.

For the map, I'm not too sure. For my maps I use the suite of mapping software from ProFantasy. There's bound to be something web-based you can use out there somewhere.

Kristi said...

I've considered Google Docs, but right now I don't think it offers any benefits over the webserver for storing the work in progress. If I've got a net connection, I can get to my isp website as easily as google, and the storage space there feels a little more in my control than Google does. As I pay for the service and storage space already, I'm less afraid that they will up and disappear with my writing. In the case of Google, who is currently free, I have a (potentially unfounded) fear that they'll suddenly decide to charge me for access to my own stuff.

Its really the map part that I don't have a good way to handle. I don't think I can "sketch" with a touchpad from my netbook, so I can't update it on the go, and hate the idea of adding even more crap to my bag (I feel like a strange, techo-bag lady half the time when I leave the house now, with purse, lunchbox, totebag, diaper bag, laptop bag, all intended for different slices of my day).

Some days I wish I did all my writing from a single office, a single computer, where i could scatter notes and sketches and research around and always have them handy. But in reality, I like to write in different spots (Starbucks, library, travelling, etc) so I have to actually organize all my junk.

Thanks for listening to me complain :) Sometimes just going through that exercise helps me sort out what is really working and which things I really want or need to improve on.